Allamakee Community School District provides further details on requiring face coverings for students and staff

At its regular monthly meeting Monday, November 16, the Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors voted - on a 3-2 split vote - to implement the requirement for students and staff members to wear face coverings in all district buildings. The face covering requirement was put in place beginning Thursday, November 19 and was done so in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers in Allamakee County.

“We held off on this issue as long as possible,” explained Allamakee Community School District Superintendent Jay Mathis when addressing the matter with the school board at that November 16 meeting. “We’ve been very blessed that we haven’t had any huge outbreaks in the school yet. I have given a great deal of thought to this, and agonized over it, but we feel that this was the best way to keep staff and students safe, and in school.”

In a follow-up interview, Mathis said there is no set timeframe for how long the mask requirement will remain in place throughout the district. He did note that it’s not necessarily a decision that can be made based on a period of time or even just a single factor.

“We’ll keep this in place until such point that we determine that we can have students and staff back together in a healthier environment with a much lower level of spreading the virus than what we’re experiencing now,” Mathis said. “What the ultimate determining factor will be at this point is difficult to say. It’s hard to have just one metric to follow in making a decision on something like this.”

As far as enforcing such a requirement, Mathis said the district isn’t looking to make this a situation of punishment, understanding that not everyone may be in agreement on mask usage for a variety of different reasons. He said there are options available to try and keep everyone healthy and educated.

“We want to avoid making this a situation that involves punitive (punishment) consequences,” Mathis said. “We have other measures we can take, and we also have other options available for learning for those students and their families who may not be in agreement with mask usage. Ultimately, we’re looking at this as someday we know we’ll be looking at this entire situation in the rear view mirror and we certainly don’t want to have any hard feelings remaining once we get to that point, or anywhere along the way.”

Mathis said there have been some families who moved to online learning because the school district had not required face coverings for students and staff. He also said that the new requirement has also now resulted in some students moving to online learning because their family does not believe in the face covering requirement.

“We understand there is no perfect solution for everyone,” he said. “We’re just trying to make the best of an overall challenging situation.”

Mathis said the ultimate goal is to provide the best and safest environment for the district’s students to learn in during this challenging time. “We want to be able to keep our doors open to provide students what we feel is the best means of education, in-person,” he said. “We feel that, right now, requiring masks is the best way to be able to do that.”

• All staff and students will wear face coverings in all school district buildings and buses.
• Face coverings include masks and gaiters (scarf-type, wrap-around coverings), and they must cover mouth and nose.

The following are exceptions to the rule:
• Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a mask or other face covering (must provide a note from health provider).
• Students and staff eating breakfast or lunch.
• Students and staff may take off face covering for a drink of water.
• Any student participating in a sporting or recreational event, or any person engaged in physical exercise, including PE class and outdoor recess.
• Any person giving a presentation or performance for an audience with proper distancing.
• Any person who is deaf or hard of hearing, and any person while communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing or has a disability, medical condition, or mental health condition that makes communication with that individual while wearing a mask or face covering difficult.
• Any person asked to remove a mask or face covering to verify an identity for lawful purposes.

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